Friday, November 6, 2020

Another Great Dinner with Chicken and Hummus

I started this blog yesterday, and somehow it vanished overnight, so here it goes again! 

I had decided to cook a pound of chickpeas with the intent of making hummus. It took about 2.5 to 3 hours to cook them. It seems it shouldn't have taken that long for them to get soft after being soaked overnight, but maybe they were older than they should have been. Who knows? Eventually they did get soft, and I made hummus with all but a cup of them. 

To Make Hummus with freshly cooked Chickpeas

Hummus (click for my original recipe)! Yum! With a whole pound of cooked chickpeas, it takes more of the other hummus ingredients than what is stated in my recipe, which uses just one can of chickpeas. While a whole pound of dried chickpeas cooks up to a lot more than two cans worth (double the original recipe), I have gotten by with using double the amount of the tahini, lime/lemon juice, garlic and olive oil from my recipe. I do not cook my chickpeas with any salt at all, as salt is said to toughen the beans, making them harder to get cooked through properly. More salt will be needed, but as an individual preference, it's best to add a teaspoon, taste and adjust as needed.

Hummus from Scratch

Makes a large amount, possibly 8 cups!

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight


drained cooked chickpeas, cooking water reserved

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoons tahini

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1/2 to 2/3 cup good quality olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, more if needed

To cook the chickpeas: Drain off the soaking water, place the chickpeas in a large pot, cover with water by about 1 inch and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook them until soft, anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending. This time they took a full three hours, possibly the chickpeas were old  Once cooked through, pour the chickpeas into a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking water. Keep this water aside.

Pour the cooked, drained, cooled chickpeas into a food processor. Add in the tahini, lime juice, garlic and a cup of the cooking water and process until very smooth. Add in the olive oil in a thin stream, while processor is running, to incorporate. If the mixture seems soft, you may not need all the olive oil. If you've used all the olive oil and the mixture is too stiff, add more of the cooking water, until you have a good consistency. Check for salt, adding more if needed. Will keep in the fridge, well-covered, for a couple of weeks.


Okay, I had the hummus made, and it was delicious! Then I started thinking about dinner, and had absolutely nothing planned. Nothing was coming to mind. I started thinking about chicken, mainly as it cooks quickly. And that was as far as I got. So I wondered if there was anything to do for dinner that would incorporate hummus and chicken? I went online.

parsnip, carrot, beet, marinade, roasted veg
Veggies to Roast
What came up that interested me was hummus bowls. The first site I came across was one from No Spoon Necessary, and the recipe is called Easy Chicken Hummus Bowls. I was enchanted by the photos, with everything arranged so prettily and all the things in there that I love: tomatoes, cucumber, Feta, olives. Mmmmm-mmmm! However, two problems: 1) I was at the tail end of my groceries. Almost no fresh anything left in the house, though by some fluke I still had some Feta!! 2) My husband wouldn't touch, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers or olives with a 10-foot pole anyway. 

Okay, so how to get around that issue? I thought I would oven roast some veggies that I did still have: yellow beet, shallots, green pepper, parsnip and carrot. Hubby's not keen on parsnips or carrots, and "hates" beets. This beet was yellow, so he didn't realize it was in there, and he does seem to eat mixtures like this if they are well flavored. Okay. Check.

That recipe idea in No Spoon Necessary called for cooked chicken and then a dressing is poured onto it for flavor. I was more of a mind to either pan saute or roast the chicken breasts I had gotten out. So, I went on searching to see what else was out there, so the next place I came to was called Plays Well with Butter, and her recipe is called Grilled Chicken Shawarma Hummus Bowls. I loved the idea of all the spices on the chicken marinade, and the chicken is grilled in that recipe. It was still in the high 90s outside and I just had no desire to stand out in that heat over the grill. I opted to roast the chicken and the veggies. 

chicken, hummus, Feta cheese, roasted vegetables
Shawarma Chicken and Vegetables with Hummus

All I can say is, tail end of groceries notwithstanding, this dinner was just fabulous! I did add olives to my bowl. My husband ate his without. But it was a dinner full of sighs and moans of pleasure. So, thanks to those out there with great ideas.

Shawarma Chicken & Vegetables with Hummus

Serves 4

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts


chicken, roasted vegetables, Feta cheese, hummus
Shawarma Chicken & Vegetables with Hummus

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 - 4 cloves fresh garlic, minces

2 teaspoons honey, optional

1+ tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sumac, optional

1 teaspoon zah'tar, optional

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger


VEGETABLES: (or substitute others - root vegetables are great)

1 medium yellow beet (or red if preferred), peeled, 1/2" cubes

2 large shallots, in 1/2" chunks

1 green pepper, cut in 1/2" pieces

1 large parsnip, peeled, cut in small cubes

1 large carrot, peeled, cut in small chunks



hummus, whatever kind preferred

Feta cheese

olives of choice, optional

Fresh tomato and cucumber, if desired

Shawarma Chicken and Vegetables

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Make the marinade by whisking together all the marinade ingredients. Set aside. Slice the chicken breasts in half across the width, so you have two, much thinner, filets. Slice across the thin pieces, making 1/2-inch-wide strips. Place the chicken strips in a bowl and pour on half the marinade mixture and mix well. Cover and let stand.

Set the prepared vegetables into the remaining marinade and toss well. Pour the vegetables into the prepared baking dish and bake the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. At the end of 30 minutes, remove the baking dish from the oven, pour on the chicken pieces with the marinade, arranging the pieces into a single layer over top. Return to oven and bake for about 20 minutes more, until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.

To serve - per bowl: Place a good-sized dollop of hummus into a bowl, smearing to one side. Spoon on 1/4 of the chicken and vegetables per bowl. Sprinkle on Feta cheese, crumbled. Optionally, add in olives, fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumber slices, to taste.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Great Dinner for Any Night or Any Occasion

 A few months back, I was looking for something to do with white beans. I use white beans when I make my Mom & Dad's Bean Soup/Ham Bone Soup, yet I rarely use them otherwise. No particular reason for this, just that the Bean Soup recipe is the only one I had growing up that used white beans. 

white beans, bacon, thyme, onion, garlic
White Beans with Bacon & Thyme

Wandering around the internet in search of ideas, I came on one that sounded promising, called White Beans with Bacon and Herbs on "Jo Cooks." I printed it off, then started to plan what I would do differently. Not that there was anything wrong with how the recipe sounded, as is. Just that I always tinker. Even with my own recipes, I go back and just have to do something different. Maybe I don't have some ingredients and have to substitute. Maybe I just have a hankering for something different than the original flavor profile. Whatever it is, I just seem to have a need to change things.

For starters, I had started cooking a pound of beans from scratch earlier in the day. I tucked in a couple of bay leaves while the beans cooked. Once I found this recipe, I realized that it sounded splendid with the fresh herbs, but I didn't have any! I did, however, have some pesto in the fridge, from my latest batch, and opted to use some of that for flavors instead. I only buy thick-sliced bacon, so I lowered the amount of bacon to 4 slices. There were no onions in the original recipe, so I caramelized a chopped onion, then added in 4 fresh minced cloves of garlic to the mix. I needed more salt, since I was using fresh cooked beans. I always cook my beans or lentils with no salt at all so they cook a bit better. I add salt once they are already tender.  And that was my plan.

The beans came out so amazingly flavorful. Oh my! And I never once thought of taking photos.

pork, thyme, sage, garlic, rosemary, fennel
Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

So a couple of weeks back, I wanted to repeat this recipe, since it was so very tasty. And then I wondered what to pair with them as a main course? If it was just me in the house, I would have had a salad alongside these scrumptious beans and called it a night. My husband, however, would not be so easily placated. I got out some pork tenderloin and started thinking about what to do with that. 

As it turned out, I created a mix of "Italian" flavors, rubbed the mixture all over the tenderloins and baked them. The mixture is somewhat akin to what I do for things like steaks or lamb chops; a green mixture of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, pepper, salt, and other things that may differ depending on the meat involved. Since this was pork, I used sage and fennel. My preference would have been fresh sage, but again, I had none on hand. Oh, how I do miss having my own herb garden! The whole thing came out so good we both spent the entire meal moaning in pleasure.

White Beans with Bacon and Thyme

Serves 10 or more

white beans, thyme, pesto, onion, garlic
White Beans with Bacon & Thyme

1 pound white dried beans, soaked overnight (OR - Pour boiling water over them and let set for one hour)

2 bay leaves


4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut in 1/4" bits

2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat from pan

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

4 fresh cloves garlic, minced finely

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (no stems)

1 - 3 tablespoons fresh basil pesto

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

If soaking beans overnight, in the morning, drain, then place beans in a large pot with tight fitting lid. Cover the beans with water by at least 1 inch above beans, add in the bay leaves, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until tender, but not mushy. 

ALTERNATELY: If, like me, you don't remember to soak overnight, in the morning place the beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak then 1 hour, drain, place beans in pot and cover with water by an inch, add the bay leaves and cook 2 to 3 hours, until tender but not mushy.

Once beans are nearly ready, remove lid and let the liquid cook down until there is only about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid left. Leave on very low heat to keep warm.

In a skillet, fry the bacon to your desired doneness. Remove the bacon to paper toweling and reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan. Add in the onion with the salt and cook, stirring occasionally at first, then nearly constantly once they start to go golden. Continue cooking and stirring until they are deep golden brown and add in the garlic, cooking another 3 to 5 minutes, until the raw garlic smell is gone. Add in the thyme leaves, pesto and red wine vinegar and stir, then pour all this mixture into the beans and mix well. Cover and let flavors meld for at least 15 minutes before serving.


For this next dish, use the pork tenderloins and not pork loin. Tenderloins are far thinner and will cook more quickly. Pork loins are a thicker cut and will be less tender.

Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

Serves 4 to 6

pork tenderloins, garlic, fennel, rosemary
Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 pounds each

4 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and minced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced finely

2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crumbled (or use fresh sage and mince, measuring out at least 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, minced, or use 2 - 3 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Trim the tenderloins of fat and silverskin. Set aside.

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and rub the mixture over the meat, coating all sides. Set the tenderloins in their coating into a zip top bag or into a container with lid and set aside for at least a half hour, though overnight in the fridge would be best.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set the tenderloins on a rack in a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Pour some water into the baking sheet, otherwise the drippings will cause a LOT of smoke. Roast the tenderloins for about 50 to 55 minutes, or to an internal temperature of at least 165. Remove from oven and tent with foil for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing - across the grain and on a diagonal.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, October 12, 2020

More Indian Sweets

Indian sweet treats, whether for one of the many festivals or holy days or just for home consumption, all seem to be made with milk. Well, maybe not all, but most. Making matters worse, they are generally made using Khoya or Mawa, a milk product created by slowly cooking, stirring, simmering, stirring, stirring and stirring, for hours, until the end result is a thickened mass. This is the basis for so many of the sweets, like Gulab Jamun, Rasgullah, Peda and many others. 

When I first made Gajar Burfi, a carrot fudge, some years back, it was  one of these recipes calling for the long milk cooking process. My sister, who once made an Indian meal for some friends, noted that she was going to make a recipe for Carrot 'Halwa', from one of her cookbooks. It was that long, slow, stirring process. She wrote later that it was a huge hit with her guests. However, after 4 1/2 hours of stirring to accomplish this result, she flatly stated, "NEVER AGAIN!"

carrots, sweet treats, whole milk powder, sugar, Gajar Burfi
Gajar Burfi or Carrot Fudge
Having read that halwa and burfi are similar, but that halwa is generally made without milk while burfi is made with milk, obviously that is a generality that doesn't always apply. When I came across a recipe for Gajar Burfi that I tweaked to come out similarly by using whole milk powder to thicken the mixture instead of stirring for hours, I was very pleased. I sent the recipe to my sister. I have no idea if she ever tried it out. She may still be too traumatized. =:o

Now, as I am preparing for an Indian dinner for another two of my sisters, I chose to make a sweets assortment as dessert rather than go to deep-frying (which I abhor, no matter how good the outcome) to make Gulab Jamun or making paneer so I could make Rasgullah (a major difficulty nowadays since pretty much all milk in the grocery is "ultra-pasteurized," and does not like to form curds for the paneer). So I looked through an Indian cookbook I created for myself, made up of mostly recipes I have created, generally by looking through 2 to 20 recipes and coming up with something that sounds good to me. I have quite a repertoire by now, as I have been making Indian food for nearly 30 years at this point. But there are things I still want to try out, so I added into this cookbook some recipes that were either straight from someone's website (to tweak later on when I tried it out), or again a compilation of what "I would do," having previously looked at many iterations for the recipe. Some of these sweets are among those. Things I had yet to try.

semolina, cashews, coconut, raisins, sweets, laddoo
Rava Laddoo, Sweet Semolina Laddoo

Why did I wait so long?

Who knows. Sometimes, it just seems like it's going to be a huge bother, or a huge mess, and I procrastinate. That is something I am really, terribly good at.

In selecting the sweets to make for a treat at end of this dinner, I selected three things in my cookbook, along with the Gajar (Carrot) Burfi, made before. I love the Carrot Fudge, and as my husband, who is not at all fond of carrots, loves it as well, just proves that once you add enough sugar, he will eat most things. :-)

I wrote a couple of days ago about the Badam Katli, or Thin Almond Fudge. That recipe is one that does not use the milk as it's basis. As it turns out, the second sweet I tried out is Rava Laddoo, or Sweet Semolina Laddoo, also does not use milk as it's basis. So much for generalities! This was a welcome discovery as my whole milk powder is running low and no grocery anywhere I have shopped carries whole milk powder. Nonfat milk powder is found anywhere. But nonfat is not the best way to go for these sweets. 

The Sweet Semolina Laddoo recipe is one I chose from a website called "Chef in You." I used it mostly just as stated in the recipe on that blog, so I urge you to go there and check out all the step by step photos, if those are needed. I happened to have semolina in my pantry, as I use it occasionally when making pasta. I measured some ingredients by gram or ounce. Some, like "10 cashews," were self explanatory. 

Rava Laddoo or Sweet Semolina Laddoo

Made about 25

Heat 2 teaspoons (of the total 4 1/2 teaspoons) of ghee in a wide skillet. Toast the raw cashews until they start to turn golden, stirring constantly. Turn these out onto paper toweling and then add in the raisins to the skillet, tossing and cooking until they puff up. Turn out to another sheet of paper toweling.

Toast the grated dry coconut, not till browned, but just until it smells of coconut. Turn out to a small bowl.

Add the remaining ghee to the skillet and over low heat add in the semolina, stirring and mixing until the smell is very apparent. It does not need to brown, but to absorb the ghee and slightly cook.

semolina, cashews, coconut, raisins, sweets

 Turn the semolina out into a mixing bowl and add in the toasted nuts, coconut, raisins, pinch of salt and the cardamom powder. Stir, then add in the sugar and mix well. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk and stir in. Check if at this point it is possible to squeeze a small amount into a ball. If you have ever made Rum Balls or Bourbon Balls at Christmas, it is similar. If the mixture will not hold its shape, add in more milk as needed, by one or two teaspoons at a time, mixing very well each time to distribute the liquid, before testing if it will hold a ball shape. I live in a very dry climate and needed to add over 2 tablespoons more milk to make the mixture hold together.

Once the mixture can hold shape, pour all of the mixture back onto the skillet and keep over low heat, covered, and let rest for 2 minutes. This gives the mixture time to absorb  and will form and taste better.

Pour back into the mixing bowl and scoop out 2 to 3 teaspoonful sized portions and form into balls. It is good to have little mini muffin papers to contain them but is not completely needed. Best if kept in the fridge and will last about 5 days.


sweet treats, milk fudge, condensed milk, powdered milk
Doodh Peda or Milk Fudge Balls

The other sweet I tried out was one called Peda. Or Doodh (milk) Peda (something spherical shaped). I am not totally positive where I found this recipe, but it is very similar to one from Hebbar's Kitchen, so please check out her recipe, again with step by step pictures if those are needed. These are little milk fudge balls, and are simple to make, if you choose to use the quick method of using condensed milk and milk powder. Sweetened condensed milk eliminates the need to add any other sugar and the milk powder thickens the mixture, giving it a great head-start. Oh, and they are so delicious!

Doodh Peda or Milk Fudge Balls

Makes about 25

milk powder, condensed milk, sweet treats, fudge
Doodh Peda or Milk Fudge Balls

1 tablespoon ghee

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups whole milk powder

2 tablespoons milk, warmed

8 or 9 saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground

1 teaspoon ghee, plus more for hands while rolling

pistachios to decorate, whole or chopped

In a small bowl, set the saffron threads into the warm milk to steep. Set aside.

In a large, heavy pot, add in the first teaspoon ghee, spread around in the pan, then pour in the sweetened condensed milk and the dry milk powder. Stir this mixture thoroughly, breaking up lumps, until the mixture is smooth. Add in the saffron milk and stir. Set over medium to medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Add in the cardamom powder and the second teaspoon of ghee and stir well. Remove from heat and pour onto a greased plate to cool slightly. Once it can be handled, grease hands with ghee and take small portions of the mixture and toll into balls. Technically, it is common to use a Peda Stamp to press a starburst into the top of the ball, and then pistachios, or pistachio slivers pressed in to adorn. I used the tip of a lemon reamer to make a starburst. 

Keep in a well sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Indian Food Updates and New Recipes

I am planning another Indian meal for two of my sisters next week. Some recipes are ones I have made before, like Kachche Gosht ki Biryani, and some I have made many, many times before, like Palak Paneer. I will be serving an array of chutneys, such as Dhania Poodina (Mint and Cilantro Chutney), Khajur Imli Chatni (Date Tamarind Chutney) and Am Chatni (Mango Chutney). One of my sisters in particular, really loves turning up the heat, so i returned to a recipe I had made in past, called Allam Pachadi, a Ginger Tamarind 'Pickle.'

ginger, tamarind, pickle, chutney, red chilies, curry leaves
Allam Pachadi / Ginger Tamarind Pickle

So, looking back over that recipe I used for Allam Pachadi, I thought maybe I should change some things. First off, while I like heat, sometimes it's just heat with no perceptible flavor, while your taste buds try to crawl away screaming, and hide. So I went back to look through the internet and some of my favorite Indian blogs, and others that are new to me, to see what other ingredients or methods might be used for this 'pickle.' I am putting that word in quotes, as these in no way resemble what we know here in the U.S as pickles. They fall more in the category of chutney, and some blog writers seem to use these words interchangeably for the same recipes. 

Looking through recipes then, I stopped at one  that seemed to be very interesting, both for the change of ingredients as well as the method of making the pickle. In the first attempt for this pickle that I made some years ago, the main recipe I used, and made a few alterations to, called for 6 TABLESPOONS of Indian powdered chilis. Yikes! I reduced that to 2 tablespoons, substituting paprika for the remainder, but even so, it was too screaming hot for me to do anything but taste.  When I encountered a recipe that sounded like it had promise, it was at the blog site called Hebbar's Kitchen. I used that recipe as a starting point, altering a few things as I went. I added more red chilies, more mustard seeds, more sugar. I added in some asafetida and turmeric. What I liked best was the method, which was simpler, IMHO.

As it turned out, while quite hot, this pickle is not as screaming hot as the last one, and it had flavors I could actually taste. I love it!

Allam Pachadi

Makes about 14 ounces

ginger, tamarind, pickle, chutney, garlic, red chilies
Allam Pachadi

Small ball of "seedless" tamarind

Boiling water for soaking the tamarind, about 3/4 cup

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 1/2 tablespoons channa dal

1 tablespoon urad dal

1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1/4 teaspoon asafetida/hing

8 dried red Kashmiri chilies, broken

15 to 20 curry leaves, depending on size (mine were small)

2.5 ounces / 75 grams ginger root (about 4+ inches worth), peeled, in small chunks

4 cloves garlic, in small chunks

2 - 3 tablespoons jaggery or light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

4 - 6 curry leaves

2 whole dried red Kashmiri chilies

Soak the tamarind in boiling hot water for at least 20 minutes to soften.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and add in the channa and urad dal with the first half teaspoon mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Stir constantly until the dals just start to turn golden (not brown) and everything is fragrant. Add in the curry leaves, broken chilies (I did not use the seeds that fell out), the ginger and garlic. Cook this, stirring quickly until the garlic no longer smells raw, just a minute or two, then pour all the contents of the skillet into a blender container. Add in the turmeric powder and salt.

Separately, pass the softened tamarind through a sieve, pressing it through with the back of a spoon to get as much pulp as possible, using some of the soaking liquid to facilitate the process. Keep remaining soaking liquid aside. Add the tamarind pulp tot he blender, and blend the whole batch to a puree. You may need to add some of the reserved tamarind soaking liquid in order to puree the pickle. I had to use the better part of the entire 3/4 cup of liquid to blend the mixture down. 

Separately, heat the tablespoon of oil for tempering (meaning added flavors) and add in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and the two dried whole chilies and toast briefly. Pour this over top of the pickle when serving. Or, just stir it into the mixture. Store the pickle in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate up to 3 weeks. 


Another thing I am working on for this dinner is dessert. I truly despise deep frying, so I am not making Gulab Jamun, and I do not want to make more paneer, as it has become nearly impossible, what with the ultra-pasteurization that has become so rampant, so I am not making Rasgulla, which now that I went to paste in a link, I realize I never posted my recipe! 

Milk, sweets, dessert, saffron
Rasgulla, recipe soon

At one of my Indian dinners I had made Gajar Burfi, a carrot fudge. This may sound strange, carrots in fudge, but after living in Guatemala as a young wife, and finding how many veggies went into desserts, I was no longer fazed when reading about carrots in fudge; it is absolutely delicious! So I thought I would return to that. But then again, I can never leave well enough alone, so I went looking at some Indian sweets recipes I had looked at before but never made. I opted then, to make an assortment of small batches of sweets, so we can all pick and choose. My first new recipe is called Badam Katli (Thin Almond Fudge). Since I used the recipe mostly as I found it, from Swasthi's Recipes, at, while I will post what I did here, please read her recipe, made the long way.

My one error was cooking the mixture just slightly too long, as it really dried out. Good, in a way, because it is certainly not sticky, but I could absolutely not get the nuts to stay adhered to the top. I used almonds, since it is almond fudge, instead of the pistachios used in Swasthi's recipe.

As most of these sweets are festival or holy day treats, they are often made truly special by gilding with edible silver or gold foil. I happened to have silver foil on hand, so I used it.

almond meal, sugar syrup, Indian sweets
Badam Katli / Thin Almond Fudge

My understanding of the word 'katli' is that it means thin, as with rolling out the fudge into a thin layer. The meanings of different words gets mightily confusing at times, and I have seen this recipe, nearly identical, called Badam Burfi or Badam Halwa.

Trying to tease out the meanings and differences, Wikipedia had some things to say that made sense. I know these will not apply in every instance, but in this case, I'm just going with it. Any 'Burfi" (sometimes "Barfi" but I prefer the other spelling for obvious reasons) type fudge candy is made using milk, whether Khoya, plain milk, condensed milk or powdered milk (and sometimes all of them). My Carrot Burfi recipe in its original form, would use khoya or a cooked down milk, which can take literally hours and hours of stirring. Not gonna happen! I used powdered milk and it came together in minutes. Yum!

Halwa, on the other hand does not use milk, but generally uses a sugar syrup to create the mixture, but without milk.

Similarly with any recipe for laddoo/laddu/ladoo, whether deep fried or made quick cooked or simply ingredients mixed together (similarly to Bourbon Balls at Christmas time), are always made into round balls. Laddoo made with cooked semolina is on my list of things to try for this upcoming dinner as well.

On to the recipe. Simple and delicious. I doubled the recipe as it stood on Swasthi's site, but I did not quite double the amount of sugar. They are delightful.

Badam Katli
Indian sweets, almond meal, sugar syrup
Badam Katli or Thin Almond Fudge

Made about 20 - 25 pieces

2 cups fine almond meal with no brown skins

1 cup + 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup water

Almond slices or pistachio pieces for decoration

In a medium skillet over high heat, place the sugar and water and bring to boil. Stir, and once the sugar is all dissolved, add in all the almond meal and cardamom. Lower heat and while mixing, it is best to take the skillet off the heat. Mix well with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until all the almond meal is evenly distributed, with no lumps. Return the pan to the heat and keep it at a simmer, because the mixture, as it boils, sends up geysers akin to watching lava burst from a volcano and with similar effect. You WILL get burned! Stir, quickly and constantly, to keep this from occurring. It will take about 6 to 8 minutes of stirring before the mixture comes together as one mass. Pour out onto a greased plat until it cools slightly.

Do not cool too long or you will not be able to knead the mixture. Knead the mixture until it comes together smoothly (I used a silicone spatula to do this, lifting, turning and forming over and over until smooth - it was just too hot!)), then place the mixture onto a piece of parchment and roll with a rolling pin to flatten. Place sliced almonds or pistachio pieces on top and roll again to make the nuts set evenly with the top of the fudge, which should be no more than 1/4-inch thick. With a sharp knife, trim edges neatly, then cut into about 1-inch wide strips. Separate the strips and cut into small squares or into diamond shapes. Store in a tightly sealed container. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Amazing Short Rib Ragu

For me, beef short ribs are more of a pain than they are worth. Generally speaking. As a child, my Mom made a dish that I loved, called Beef with Sweet Cabbage - - - except for the fact that she used beef short ribs and there was sometimes about one bite of meat to a short rib. The dish is one that I reworked, still called Beef with Sweet Cabbage, using brisket instead, cooking the brisket and then cutting and shredding it into manageable bite sized portions. 

short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine, onions
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta

Aside from the small amount of meat to be had on some short ribs, they are fatty. So fatty in fact, that they will leave a thick layer of fat atop any soup or stew, which then needs to be removed. Eating a "whole" short rib, with the bone and fat and gristle, well, no, that's just not going to happen. Not in my house.


A few years back my ex-daughter-in-law told me about a Short Rib Lasagna, which I went on to recreate as best as I was able. It is delicious, truly. The catch is working with the short ribs.

Okay, I have made that Short Rib Lasagna twice now, and working to get the meat out from all the fat is still a royal pain, but the meat is nice and tender, and already in bite sized morsels, just due to the way the meat is distributed in the short ribs. So, when my son's birthday was coming up and he had a nice Italian Amarone wine he wanted to drink, I said I would work on a dish that would pair with his wine. We discussed what kind of dish to use, what flavors to add, and came up with a Short Rib Ragu. I planned to serve the ragu over homemade pappardelle pasta. In essence, the recipe is not far off from the way I cooked the short ribs for the lasagna recipe, but just a few differences became pertinent to the flavor profile I wanted.

beef short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta


Key flavors I wanted to add in with the short ribs were some Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds or "heels", mushroom powder (from dried shiitakes, ground to powder then sieved), lots of onions (I chose red onions for sweetness), a head of roasted garlic, some finely grated carrot (again, for sweetness), tomato sauce & strong wine (Cabernet). In a departure from my norm, to date, I opted to oven braise the dish, instead of using a slow cooker. Fresh rosemary and thyme with some bay leaves were the main herbal flavors. Something my son wanted in the flavor profile was fennel seeds. In all my planning, I did mean to add a substantial amount of parsley, which I completely forgot, and never once did I think of the fennel seeds, though I did a light smashing of some fennel seeds which we added at the table. These certainly would have been good, added in to cook with the ragu.


It is good to make things ahead when possible, thereby giving oneself time on the day of serving. I made this dish 4 days ahead of serving. Any longer and it would be preferable to freeze until the day before it is needed. To thaw, allow to thaw in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days and then return the ragu to a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid and warm gently over very low heat, or in the oven. The roasted garlic can be made ahead. (Cut off top quarter inch from the whole garlic head, set into foil, drizzle with olive oil, crimp foil at top and roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Once done and cooled, squeeze out all the soft garlic into a lidded container, drizzle on more olive oil, cover and refrigerate until needed.)


Parmesan "heels" are the rind ends of good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These ends are hard and not usable to grate, but are excellent when tossed into a soup or stew to cook, giving flavor, but not leaving sticky cheese to coat everything. Save these rinds in the fridge, well wrapped. Cook in any soup or stew, then remove them once the meal is ready to serve.

Short Rib Ragu

Serves 10 (Freezes well)

beef short ribs, tomato sauce, red wine, roasted garlic
Short Rib Ragu over Pappardelle Pasta

4 to 5 pounds beef short ribs

Oil, for browning

I head roasted garlic, cloves all squeezed out of their skins

2 large red onions, in thinly sliced quarter-rounds

1 red bell pepper, chopped small

2 carrots, grated very finely on small holed grater

1.5 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms, blitzed to powder, strained

2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon red wine

2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 - 3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 - 2 Parmesan "heels" if available

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

2 bay leaves

0.5 cup of chopped parsley, optional

2 - 3 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, optional

Heat oven to 250 or 260 degrees, or whatever temperature will maintain a simmer. Have ready a heavy, large, oven safe pot with tight fitting lid, such as an enameled cast iron pot or braiser. 

Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add in a tablespoon of olive oil. Brown a few short ribs at a time, not overcrowding the pan. Turn them to brown all sides evenly. 

While ribs are browning, slice the onions and place half the onions into the pot or braiser. Add in the red bell pepper and carrots, part of the rosemary and thyme. As the ribs are browned, remove them to the pot. 

Once all the ribs have been browned and added to the pot, pour off all but a tablespoon of grease from the skillet, then add in the red wine and cook quickly to reduce by half. Once reduced, add in the mushroom powder and stir. This will want to thicken. Scrape all the mushroom/wine mixture atop the ribs in the pot, then add in all the remaining ingredients: tomato sauce and paste, remaining rosemary and thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, Parmesan heels, parsley and fennel, if using. Set the pot on the heated burner and bring the ingredients to a simmer, then cover with tight fitting lid and set in the oven for about 4 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.

Once tender, remove from oven. Remove the ribs, bones, and any pieces that have fallen off bones, to a plate to cool. Use sheets of paper toweling, set briefly on top of the stew in the pot to remove the thick layer of grease. Discard these grease-soaked paper towels. Repeat with more paper towels if needed. 

Once meat is cooled, remove the meat, shredding if needed. Discard all bones and fat or gristle. Return the meat to the pot and stir. The sauce is now ready to eat, but will taste better with at least a day's rest in the fridge, or freeze if preparing ahead. Also, this is a large amount, so it can easily be divided into two portions, freezing one and keeping one out to eat. Serve over any pasta desired.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Magnificent Appetizer for a Formal Dinner

Birthday Dinner Menu
This past weekend was my son's 47th birthday, and as usual I made a dinner. It was a fancier type of dinner, with a lovely table setting, three kinds of wine and four courses. And a menu, shown here. 

My son loves fine food, as do I, along with loving to make it. It is a true labor of love, at times, to put together this type of meal, but once it is done and we are enjoying, and everything tastes SO GOOD, then it truly doesn't matter how long it took to prepare, or how many backaches went into the mix. We all enjoyed the meal, which thankfully all turned out great.

My idea for the savory cheesecake tarts I made as part of the appetizer were based on the recipe for little individual Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes. I made the original recipe in mini cheesecake pans, but for our birthday dinner I wanted something a little bigger than "mini," plus I wanted them in a different shape configuration; wider and less tall. I have some 3½-inch diameter metal rings, originally bought for making English muffins, but to date, I still haven't made any! I have used the rings to make buns, keeping them in shape while they bake. This time it seemed they would be the ideal size for my appetizer cheesecakes. 

rosemary, brie, chevre, cheesecake, savory
Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts with Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables

One thing I had trouble with was the crust. When I made the original recipe, I used all-purpose flour. This time I wanted to try out a gluten free option and something did not work quite properly. I had to add, and revise as I went along. My suggestion would be to use the original recipe, cut in half.

As for the filling for these savory cheesecakes, I altered the original recipe by using Brie, Chevre and cream cheeses, with some Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. This worked out just amazingly good. To top off these appetizers, I made some Oven Roasted Root Vegetables, making about half the amount, more or less. To make them work with the smaller size of Cheesecake, I cut all the vegetable pieces into ¼-inch cubes. The shallots were cut into chunks about the same size as the golden beet, butternut squash, parsnip, and red bell pepper (not a root veg, but added for color). In keeping with the rosemary theme, I added some rosemary to the original balsamic mixture.

brie, chevre, cheesecake, tart, rosemary
Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts with Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables

Topped off with a rosemary sprig and a large caper berry, these were not only gorgeous, but they tasted as good as they looked. I served a NV Mionetto Prosecco Extra Dry, which paired wonderfully.

The crusts can be made ahead, formed and frozen. The cheesecakes can be made and baked 1 to 2 days ahead with no perceptible deterioration in quality.

Rosemary, Brie & Goat Cheese Tarts

Serves 6

brie, chevre, rosemary, tart, cheesecake


5 tablespoons unsalted butter

⅓ cup almond meal

½ cup +2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

Cut all ingredients together, form into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to slightly under a quarter-inch thickness. Whatever size diameter container you will use for baking the cheesecakes is the size you will need to cut out the tart bases. I used 3½-inch rings with no bottoms, using the ring to cut out the base. Set them onto a parchment lined tray or baking sheet and freeze until quite firm, covered well if leaving for more than an hour.

When ready to bake, set the same rings or the tart shells onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Cut pieces of parchment that will line the wall of the ring and extend a bit above the top of the ring. Set the frozen crust inside the parchment. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 to 13 minutes, or until set and just starting to turn golden. Set aside to cool slightly. Leave oven on.


6 ounces Brie cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces Chevre cheese, at room temperature

4 ounces plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon sugar

2 pinches salt

1 egg plus 2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

Pinch Aleppo pepper or other chili flakes, optional

½ teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Most small Brie rounds come in 8-ounce packages. I remove much of the outer coating of the Brie, leaving about 6 ounces, after trimming. 

Using a hand mixer on low speed, beat together the Brie, Chevre, cream cheese and yogurt, just to combine. Add in the sugar, salt, rosemary Aleppo pepper and black pepper, then add in the eggs and yolks. Again, beat on low speed, for as little time as possible, just to make sure all ingredients are properly distributed.

Scoop equal portions of the Brie mixture into the pre-baked tart shells, lined with the parchment. The parchment will allow for easier removal later. Once filled, rap the baking sheet sharply onto a counter surface to eliminate any air bubbles from the filling. Bake the cheese tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheesecakes are mostly set, with just a tiny bit of jiggle in their centers. Set aside to cool. Once baked and cooled, they can be covered and refrigerated until needed, 1 to 2 days.

When serving, preheat oven to 350, uncover the cheesecakes and set the baking sheet in the oven to warm for about 10 minutes or less. If using the rings with no bottoms, use a spatula to lift the entire cheesecake with its ring onto a plate for serving, then lift off the ring and peel away and discard the parchment, leaving a clean outer edge. Top with any garnish desired, although the little cubed vegetables baked in the Balsamic mixture paired heavenly well.

Oven Roasted Root Vegetables

Makes 4.5 to 6 cups, depending on vegetable amounts.

2 to 4 shallots, 3/4 to 1 cup depending on size, cut into small chunks 

1¼ cups butternut squash, in ¼-inch dice

1 large parsnip, peeled, cut in ¼-inch dice

1 medium to large golden beet, cut in ¼-inch dice 

1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice


⅓ cup Balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced finely

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon Zahtar, optional

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Mix all dressing ingredients in a small saucepan to melt and meld flavors. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and add in all the prepped vegetables, then pour in the dressing. Stir well to coat, then bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with the tip pf a knife. These can be made ahead and reheated just before using. 

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Side Dishes for Any Night

I love great flavors. I have actively searched out great recipes from the age of 16, though I never actually cooked back then. I cut out things that sounded interesting and saved them, for that "someday," when I would cook. This happened around age 20, when I got married. However, I married a Guatemalan man and moved to Guatemala, where the food situation was vastly different from my upper midwest upbringing. 

No complaints. Truly. I learned a whole new world of flavors and cooking styles, and these have carried me through all the years since that time. I am grateful for what life handed me. I am grateful for my upbringing (from Mom) that stressed:
"Whenever you visit someone's house and are invited to eat, you must at the very least try each food on the table, whether you like it or not. This is polite."
Boy, did I ever run into a lot of things I had NO inclination to try when I first moved to Guatemala! But I held on to Mom's teaching, determined not to disgrace myself in front of my new family. I am so glad I did, because my palate would not be what it is today. I found out I really did like a lot of things I would have assumed otherwise, had I not tasted them. And that holds true no matter where I have been.
Black Bean Salsa
Black Bean Salsa

One of the things I learned to love, truly love, was black beans. Yum, yum, yummy! And my husband of 30 years has finally learned that he loves them as well. With that in mind, many years back, when my husband was still extremely iffy on the eating of black beans, I had made a recipe that I loved, called Black Bean Salsa. It has black beans, which I love, and corn which my husband loves. One can each. I figured we were getting a 50/50 chance of him liking this salad. As it happened, it was a sort of "it's okay, but nothing to write home about" situation with him. Oh well. 

Yesterday I ran into that recipe again, so opted to try it out once more, now that he loves black beans. It was fabulous, flavor wise, and both of us were very happy with the dish as a side to grilled chicken. 

But, you know how sometimes you revisit an old recipe and something just makes no sense? Well, the vast amount of liquids in the mix seemed ridiculous to us both. It is a waste of lime juice and olive oil to put so much into a recipe. The flavors are perfect, but the amounts are off. So this time I am going to post the recipe here, with my updates. It is well worth it. It could also be used as a dip, similarly to "Texas Caviar."

Black Bean Salsa
Black Bean Salsa

Black Bean Salsa

Serves 4 to 6

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
1 - 2 medium tomatoes, small cubes
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies
1 Poblano pepper, optional
½ cup diced red onion or shallot
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
(½ cup vinegar, optional)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped cilantro, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
dried chili flakes, optional, to taste

If using the Poblano, I opted to blister the pepper under the broiler, peel and de-seed, then chop. It makes a nice addition but is not essential.

My husband and I do not handle raw onion well, so I opt to prepare the onion and the garlic, place in a small bowl and cover with the vinegar (listed as optional) for about 10 minutes while prepping the rest of the ingredients. After this time, drain the vinegar well and add into the rest of the ingredients.

Place the drained and rinsed beans, the corn and all the remaining ingredients into a bowl and toss well. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes to meld flavors and serve.


This next recipe I wanted to feature is one that some may not like because of the texture. If you love bread pudding or flan, with the soft texture, then you may enjoy this. My family certainly did. It is a recipe given me by a co-worker long, long ago, and it is absolutely excellent with ham. It would also be good with Polish sausage or Brats, or anything you would serve a sweetened sweet potato casserole.  My friend called it Scalloped Pineapple. Not sure of this terminology. Truly Pineapple Bread Pudding would be closer to how this dish comes out. It could certainly be used as dessert. Back in the 1980s, when I first ate this dish, it was made with plain white store-bought bread. If you get creative, it could likely be made better with some other bread, but I am presenting her recipe as it was given.

And, forgive me, but it has been so very long since I made this recipe, I have no photos to share. As I looked online to see if this recipe was out there, turns out it is EVERYWHERE. Still, little variations in every single recipe tell me that easc cook made it their own in some small way.

Scalloped Pineapple

Serves 4 to 6

1½ cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
8 slices white bread
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple with juice
- more butter for the bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter each slice of the bread, stack then and cut into cubes. Place the bread cubes into a 9 x 9-inch casserole dish.

Cream together the stick of room temperature butter with the sugar. Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Dump in the whole can of pineapple with juice. At this point the mixture will look completely curdled and unappetizing. Have faith and carry on. Once the pineapple is well mixed in, pour this mixture over top of the bread cubes in the casserole and bake for about 45 minutes, or however long it takes to turn a nice golden brown on top.


Another oldie but goodie of a recipe is one I found back in the 1980s in a Southern Living Annual Cookbook. At that time I was still young enough not to suffer from too much sodium (from too many canned veggies), and this was an easy salad, it made plenty, so having family over for dinner was a snap. These days I might do some things differently, like cook my own green beans, keeping them bright green, using fresh herbs. I am presenting my own methods here.

Again, an old, old recipe I haven't made in ages, so I have no photos at this time.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Serves 8

2 good handfuls of fresh green beans
1 can (15-ounce) kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
1 can (7-ounce) pitted ripe olives, drained
1 jar/can (6 - 8 ounce) sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can (14-ounce) artichoke hearts, drained, quartered
1 jar (4 ounces) sliced pimentos
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1½ cups celery, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon capers
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon parsley, finely minced
2 teaspoons chives, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stems discarded
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Snap off ends of green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths and steam just until crisp-tender and still bright green, 5 to 8 minutes. To stop cooking and keep bright green color, plunge them into ice water for a few minutes, then drain well.

Place the green beans and the next 8 ingredients into a mixing bowl. Separately, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, sugar, herbs and pepper, then pour over the vegetables in the bowl and toss well. The salad is best if allowed to marinate overnight.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.